Interview with Vidwan Maheshaswamy
When and how did your passion for music begin? What made you choose flute as your forte?
Music has been imbibed into me by heredity. My mother is a Carnatic Vocalist and Veena player. Once, Vidwaan A.Veerabhadraiah, who ran the Aruna Musicals at Balepet in Bengaluru heard about my cultural activities in my College from my father and he just gave him a Flute asking my father to pass it on to me as a blessing from him. I didn’t know how to play flute at that time. It took me a while to bring some decent sound out of it. Then, I started trying to play some popular tunes. Later on, my parents, upon the advice of my father’s friend Vidwan A.V.Prakash, insisted that I should learn playing flute in a proper way.
That is when I started learning from Guru Vidwan Shree M.S.Shreenivasamurthy ( and am still learning from him). He introduced me to Shree U.S.Krishnarao, with whom he was associated for a long time. Before that, once, Vidwan H.S.Venugopal sir asked me if I could play flute for a production of one Smt. Shyamala Muralikrshna in Shahbad, and I agreed that was my first performance with a Dance troop. Then, word spread around that I was playing for dance. Established artist like Vidwan G.Gurumurthy, Shree H.S. Venugopal and Shree Debur Shreevathsa encouraged me a lot in the field of Bharathanatyam. Ever since, ….I am what Iam.
Please tell us about your association with Guru B.Bhanumati and Bharatanjali.
One of my first performances with Bhanu aunty was during 1996-97. And in 1997, When Bharatanjali was to tour England for the first time, she asked me if I could tour along with. That was my first trip abroad and I had the wonderful opportunity of working with such great Guru, closely for about a month; needless to say that I was wonder-struck at her in-depth knowledge, creativity (both in ideas and execution) and Abhinaya. Each time I see her, my respect and high regards towards her just keeps increasing.
Working with Bharatanjali was so much fun! There was not a single day in our England tour, that didn’t start and end with loud giggles and having fun rehearsing. Each artist in Bharatanjali is totally Devoted to the Guru and inspired by her to be fully involved while they practice and perform. Each one of them come from different walks of life- some are Computer engineers, some are working elesewhere, some are studying- yet, they all come united for one purpose - Bharatanatya, Bharatanjali.
Irrespective of the occasion (rehearsal, concert, an informal gathering etc.), your presence creates an atmosphere of enthusiasm and humor. What is the secret behind this ever energetic personality of yours?
I don’t take myself seriously. I am fortunate to be born like this and want to celebrate each moment of my life. That’s it.
In accompanying a dancer, what are the basic tenets to be followed as a flautist in order to make the performance a success and have the performer at ease?
It is very important for an accompanist to know when NOT to play. Otherwise, any one can keep following the singer. If one is accompanying a Naatya performance, it is important to observe the performer. One should understand the lyrics of the song (if any) that is being enacted. Then getting into the mood of the song and playing aptly happens. Yes, an accompanist needs to dance within along with the performer dancing on stage. At the same time the aspect of melody also should be taken care of. The singer should not be disturbed by an accompanying instrument.
There will be parts of a performance where the instrument has to follow the dancer and match the mood and action, and not the song. That’s where the challenge comes. It should be in line with the melody of the song, the mood of the song and the action on stage. For this to happen, everyone – the dancer and members of orchestra should thoroughly understand the subject of presentation. That’s when the dancer becomes a musician and musicians become dancers and everyone is in harmony and the presentation becomes worth it for the audience. In all, it is not about “Me”; it’s about “US”.
What are the challenges you have experienced when it comes to accompanying a music kacheri and a dance program?
No, there are no challenges in accompanying either. Actual challenge is not being a challenge to the main performer! Sometimes, and accompanist can be quite a distraction or even disturbance for the performer and the theme of the presentation. This happens when one doesn’t try to understand the lyrics and mood of the song. That’s when one might start showing off all the technical talents, not caring for the aesthetics. An accompanist should always remember that the purpose of accompanying is just to support and, if and wherever possible, embellish the performance.
We know that you also accompany for sugama sangeetha and have worked with stalwarts of the field. What has it been like for you to manage and yet enjoy accompanying such varied genres of music?
It has been fun working in various genres. It’s like wearing different outfits for different occasions. You just need to understand and get into the situation. I just have been lucky to be working with big names in all those fields.
Have you been associated with theater too? Can you tell us some more about it?
Yes! Theater has been my wonderland!! I used to act in Dramas in school and college. I even penned a few plays for college competitions. Then I was also with “Nataranga” for a few years. I had the opportunity of being a part of plays directed by Shree C.R.Simha. Most of my fellow actors and actresses have become big names now in both theater and cine field. I still want to take part in plays, but need to make time for rehearsals. T.P.Kailasam is my all time favourite.
You are often addressed as “Sakalakalavallabha”. I have had the privilege of witnessing your vocal concert too. We have also heard you on the veena. How and when did you extend your interest and practice into each of the above?
As mentioned earlier, my mother is a musician and hails from a family of artists and lyricists. So, maybe I got it by heredity. I used to play (with) my mother’s veena since childhood; but never learnt in properly. Singing also has the same explanation. She used to sing for Bharathanatyam and I grew up watching and hearing her. Art has been my passion since birth.
No, I don’t consider me worth being called “Sakalakalavallabha”. I just have been trying to learn and understand each aspect of Art as a whole. Hope I get some amount of mastery over, at least, one of them.
Out of my personal interest, I would like to know what kind of reading or homework you have been doing to have such a diversified platter of knowledge? (meaning practical, theoretical, technical and spiritual aspects of music and dance)
I don’t know anything. All that you think “I know” is just information collected from some references, talks by scholars and a few interaction with some of them, out of which, I can remember and recall just a tiny bit, at times.
Few inspiring words for the budding artistes?
Play and perform responsibly. We all are fortunate to be serving in the field of Art - this is a permanent designation. There are ex-principles, ex-engineers, ex-ministers, ex-presidents, even ex-husbands and ex-wives! But, have you ever heard of 'ex-artist'? Think of this and keep in mind. We all will die; but before that, we should live! We are blessed to be entertainers and, simultaneously, conveyors of some good moral, spiritual and divine messages to the society through our talents.
Let us use this opportunity to try and bring peace and harmony in the society. Let’s celebrate life. Let us remember that life is a constant process of learning and be humble. Let us all learn, earn and enjoy together…..Sahanaavavathu, sahanau bhunaktu, sahaveeryam karavaavahai………..Aum Shantih Shantih Shantih.